Our grant to Hook Marine will save the lives of seafarers engaged in the most dangerous of all careers – fishing. Hook Marine are the brains behind SeaWise®, a tablet-sized device that monitors the stability of fishing boats in rough sea conditions, giving seafarers for the first time the information they need to protect crews from unnecessary risks.
In many coastal towns there are memorials to fishing boats and their crews who have been lost at sea, and mortality casts a stubbornly heavy shadow over the fishing industry. Commercial fishermen are 110 times more likely to lose their lives at work than the average employee.
“While there are many hazards facing all seafarers, those encountered by commercial fishermen are among the worst,” according to Kenneth Smith, Director of Hook Marine, “The accident statistics showing loss of life and loss of vessels are not acceptable in the 21st century.”
The most common cause of accidents on fishing boats, say figures published by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch, and echoed by the US Coastguard, is instability. This is often caused by flooding or icing leading to foundering or capsizing. It is estimated that up to 65% of all fishing vessel losses are the result of inadequate stability.
The stability of a fishing boat is not a constant – it can shift and deteriorate without the crew realising that anything has changed, because of water coming on board, or when a catch (of unpredictable size) is loaded far out at sea.
Stability can also be affected by any change to equipment or design. In 2018 the prawn trawler, Nancy Glen, capsized in Loch Fyne because a new crane on deck made it unstable. Two of the crew drowned. The Chief inspector of Marine Accidents, Andrew Moll said: “The capsize and sinking of Nancy Glen, which resulted in the tragic loss of two respected Tarbert fishermen, has again demonstrated the consequences of not knowing how stable a boat is.
“Too many of the UK’s small fishing vessels have no baseline measure of their stability, so their operators cannot assess the effect of material modifications or changes to fishing methods.”
This lack of a way of measuring stability at sea was the driving force behind the development of SeaWise®. Supporting Hook Marine in finding a solution to this problem is perfectly aligned with the Foundation’s mission to protect life and property at sea. Hook Marine sought funding from us when they needed to put SeaWise® to the test in rough water with steep-sided waves, or waves reflected from rocky shorelines.
“We had done initial work on a monitor that gauges fishing boats’ stability by looking at the metacentric height of the vessel. It worked well on calm seas but we needed support to develop the device to work in choppier waters,” explains Kenneth.
The SeaWise® monitor logs the loss of stability through continuous roll period measurement and sets off an alarm when the metacentric height is reduced to 0.35m, the minimum value specified by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Our grant has allowed Hook to test SeaWise® using a wave basin at the engineering laboratories of the University of Edinburgh. They have also done trials at sea which have proved its success on different types of fishing vessel.
“Having SeaWise® on board gives crews essential, early warning that a boat is becoming unstable, allowing them to take corrective action and to keep out of harm’s way,” says Kenneth.
“In earlier times the arrival of the ship’s barometer was credited with saving lives by warning captains of approaching stormy weather; we think SeaWise® has the potential to do the same thing, and bring more fishermen safely home.”